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Cambodia rejects polling criticism, opposition complains "death of democracy"



Phnom Penh (Reuters) – On Monday, one day after its Cambodian People's Party (CPP) declared victory in general elections, Cambodia launched another government chapter of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Legal groups are neither free nor fair.

The Cambodian Prime Minister and President of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) Hun Sen shows his stained finger in a polling station in a parliamentary election in Takhmao, Kandal province, Cambodia on July 29, 201

8. REUTERS / Samrang Pring

The White House said it would consider taking steps, including extending visa restrictions for some Cambodian government officials in response to "flawed elections" for which there was no significant challenger to Hun Sen.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Sunday's party won an estimated 100 out of 125 parliamentary seats. The DAP News, a pro-government website, later said the CPP had won 114 seats. Two other parties, the Funista Royal Party and the League of Democracy Party, each won five and six seats.

More than 82 percent of eligible voters vote according to the National Electoral Commission. Voter turnout was 90 percent in the 2017 local elections and 69.61 percent in the last parliamentary elections in 2013.

Critics say the election is a step backwards for democracy in Cambodia following the dissolution of the largest opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the arrest of its leader Kem Sokha for treason.

Former CNRP President Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile, said the election was a "hollow" victory for Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who has ruled Cambodia for nearly 33 years.

The United States imposed sanctions on some Cambodian government officials for cracking down on critics and imposed sanctions on a high-ranking official near Hun Sen in June.

The European Union has threatened Cambodia with economic sanctions.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Sunday that "she does not represent the will of the Cambodian people."

"The defeated elections, which excluded the country's main opposition party, are the biggest setback for the democratic system enshrined in Cambodia's constitution," Sanders said. The election campaign was marred by threats from national and local leaders, she said.

"The United States will consider additional steps to respond to the elections and other recent setbacks for democracy and human rights in Cambodia, including a significant expansion of visa restrictions announced on 6 December 2017," Sanders said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the White House statement was an attempt to intimidate Cambodia.

"This is against the Cambodians who wanted to go and decide their own fate," Phay Siphan told Reuters.

A poster by Cambodian Prime Minister and President of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), Hun Sen, will be shown on July 30, 2018 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. REUTERS / Samrang Pring

"DEATH OF DEMOCRACY & # 39;

CNRP Deputy Foreign Minister Monovithya Kem said at a press conference in Jakarta Monday that the party welcomed the White House statement and hoped others would follow suit.

The CNRP also called on the international community to reject the result of the election.

"July 29, 2018 marked the death of democracy in Cambodia, a dark new day in recent history," said CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua. "The result announced by the CPP and the National Electoral Commission must be completely rejected by the international community."

Headlines in Cambodia on Monday welcomed Hun Sen's victory.

"CPP dominates elections: unofficial results show that the ruling party will increase its majority in the National Assembly," the pro-government newspaper Khmer Times said.

Some independent media have been targeted by Hun Sen and his allies in a presidential raid.

Police provide security in a polling station as an official elects in the Cambodian general election, at a polling station in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 29, 2018. REUTERS / Darren Whiteside

Many polling stations in the center of the capital, Phnom Penh, seemed calm on Sunday. The polling stations Reuters visited in the city were less than busy, and some voters said they voted because they would not get in trouble.

The CNRP had called on voters to boycott the elections, but the authorities warned that this was a traitor.

At the Kapkor market in Phnom Penh, Meas Sinuon, 60, said she was satisfied with Sunday's result.

"This government has already done good things," she said as she searched for food. "But I want the new government to do more to help people."

Another voter, a Tuk Tuk driver from Phnom Penh, described the result as "the same thing".

"Hun Sen again," said the man, who did not want to be identified because he feared for his safety.

Unofficial election results are expected in mid-August and official results are expected in September.

Additional coverage by Mike Stone at WASHINGTON, Fanny Potkin at JAKARTA, Chantha Lach, and Juarawee Kittisilpa at PHNOM PENH; Letter from Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Edited by Paul Tait

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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